I love telling this Anthony Bourdain story, although it’s now bittersweet after learning that the famous chef and traveler took his own life today.
I used to share an office with a wonderful woman, the late Kim Ricketts, whose book events business brings authors to town and has them appear at public and private events, such as doing readings for Microsoft and Starbucks. She was also plugged into the restaurant community, and sometimes when a celebrity chef came through town, she’d put on a special event: they’d close a good restaurant for a night, and the restaurant’s chef and staff would create a five-course meal from the author’s cookbook. The author him- or herself would be there to mingle and chat and also eat, giving attendees more time than a simple signing line to interact. At the end of the night, as a customer, you walked away with a belly full of delicious food, a signed copy of the cookbook, and maybe some quality time with the author.
Bourdain had just published his Les Halles Cookbook, based on recipes from the French restaurant where he worked in New York. At the time he was merely a celebrity chef who had made a big splash with his classic book Kitchen Confidential. I think he’d also started appearing on the Food Network. My wife and I quickly signed up, and also got tickets for my dad and step-mom, both avid Food Network watchers.
At the restaurant, Bourdain mostly hung out at the bar across the room chatting with a group of attractive women, but, aware of his responsibilities, he did make a few rounds among the diners.
When he reached our table, we exchanged a couple of pleasantries, but when he saw that we were between courses, he exclaimed, “You’ve got no food! I’ll come back when there’s some fuckin’ food.”
He did not come back, of course.
I think my parents were somewhat shocked, but I wasn’t. “That’s pretty much exactly what I expected from Bourdain,” I said, happily. It was a great night.
Bourdain was opinionated, brash, and clearly on his own path. It’s too bad he ended the path himself.